My name’s Reece Warrender, and I’m a mighty pirate! That would be a lie. I am not a pirate, certainly not half as much of a pirate as the mighty Guybrush Threepwood, the lovable protagonist of the Monkey Island series. Being brought back alive for his second remake this generation, Monkey Island 2 SE brings what many (including myself) hail as the highlight of the Monkey Island series and one of the best adventure games of all time to the current generation for new gamers to witness and the older ones to reminisce.
Following on from Guybrush’s adventures from the first Monkey Island you find yourself setting out once again on the search for adventure, treasure and more trivial inventory than you can shake a stick at. In search of the greatest treasure ever known to a pirate, “Big Whoop”, you begin by almost instantly losing all your wealth along with your freedom to leave the island you currently vacate. Here starts out the adventure, one in which you will need to search every nook and cranny to find the oddest, weirdest, strangest objects imaginable and somehow manage to discover ways in which they can be used to aid you past constant obstacles that halt your adventure.
This is the game’s biggest compliment; the logic behind the puzzle design is mind-blowing. The majority of the game is based over three key islands, littered with objects to find and characters to befriend. At any one time solving one tiny puzzle could require you to use an arsenal of objects obtained from all islands, from a range of different locations – and in hand each of these objects will likely have required the same. From start to end the interrogation of the puzzles into one another, and also into the story, is sheer genius. Everything fits together like a jigsaw and at moments when the pieces fall into place you will see the beauty. More than this I was surprised to find on my second playthrough of the game that a great deal of the puzzles weren’t static and were actually random in their design, needing you to focus and not just follow past choices. It’s hard to comprehend how complex it must have been to achieve such flawless logic and puzzle interrogation, and is certainly not something that I could bare spending too much time on as before long I had no choice but to resort to a hint, or two, or twenty.Thankfully this is the future!
Welcomed immensely to the remake is the addition of in-game hints, accessible by a single click, along with the ability to highlight objects in the screen to aid those struggling with pixel hunting (or picture hunting, as the new graphics will have it known). Anyone new to the game’s special editions will also be extremely pleased to find that whilst the game has been heavily reworked for the new generation, a simple press of the Back button will instantly revert the entire game back to its pixelated glory. Not only can you go back to reliving your childhood, but you can do so with voices! I was pleasantly surprised that fans of keeping things classic can aid their choice with a taste of future comforts. In addition to these new features, there is a new control scheme available that has you controlling Guybrush with the left analogue stick, giving the game a modern adventure feel similar to that of the last Monkey Island game in the series (or Grim Fandango, for those with good taste).
As welcomed as these new features are, the majority of players will want only one thing from Monkey Island 2 SE: to keep as much from the original intact as possible. Word for word, it’s all there. The comedy writing that set the series apart is present in all its glory, the characters, the puzzles ... everything is there just as it was almost 20 years ago. One can only imagine how troublesome it was to maintain perfect consistency to the original throughout the game, but well worth the effort as the game benefits from preserving what has yet to be replicated as well. I couldn’t help but press the Back button constantly from scene to scene, from dialogue line to character animation, just to see if it was in-fact the same it was 20 years ago. Apart from a few legal requirements (farewell Sam and Max) I never found any inconsistencies.
Some things do change however which is apparent right away as any screenshot of the game shows this isn’t a 20 year old game with the glorious high definition graphics. After having recently playing the first special edition, I found the new art to be of a different style to the original, with some scenes evidently reworked and Guybrush especially having some strange Guile inspired haircut. Thankfully this time around that is not the case, as it would seem the developers have made sure to keep scene and character design (with the possible exception of Governor Marley) very VERY similar to that of the original. Everything is in the exact same placement, Guile haircuts are gone and minor niggles found in the first special edition look to be ironed out. The game looks fantastic, a shining example of how to bring a classic piece of gaming into the HD era without having to submerge it with the brown and bloom we have become accustomed to.
Similarly to the graphics, the audio background music has met an upgrade whilst maintaining the same tracks populating each area. Most will find them to be a pleasant modernization, but I couldn’t help miss the midi tint. The voices however have seen a significant improvement, and where previously characters had only text they are now fully voiced – and beautifully so. Some fantastic voice work has been achieved throughout, and not only with the headlining characters. Stan, the used<insert item here> salesman in particular is a fond favourite, giving me a chuckle with almost every line.
Having played the game twice, the first playthrough took just over six hours with moderate use of hints. The second playthrough using none took around an hour and half. Whilst now an arcade title, there is no denying the game’s retail roots as the length surpasses most retail releases (particularly if played without hints). Fans of the series, adventure games or comedies will likely feel right at home with Monkey Island 2 SE. Even if it’s not your typical taste, if you were ever curious about this style of game, it would certainly be a great place to start.